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Photographer's Note

In the year when I was born, my father was doing his compulsory army service. He was stationed in western Poland and assigned to a unit looking after the security of a military airport. He later told me many stories about that period of his life. The one I remember the best is about him and his companions apprehending a “Western Spy” – a man with a camera, taking photos near the perimeter fence. The poor bloke’s film roll was confiscated and processed. It turned out he was taking shots of cows and rural architecture.

Why am I saying this? Partly, because Gert has recently posted a story of his losing a roll of film to an overzealous policeman in Cotonou in 1982. But also because I have recently remembered another aspect of my Dad’s story – that we found it hilarious someone would bother travelling to Poland to take photos of what we thought were inferior subjects: village houses and farm animals (well, I’m not laughing anymore as I find myself hunting every pretty wooden hut before it disappears https://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Europe/Poland/East/Mazowieckie//photo1459792.htm).

I thought about that a lot when I was in Afghanistan, as I’m sure my travel companions – my guide Azim and the driver Bahradin (patient as they were) must have been watching me with disbelief every time we came across a herd of yaks. What for them must have appeared to be at best the most common of subjects, at worst a nuisance and an obstacle on the road, made me scream with joy, jump out of the car and run for the animals and their herders with my camera. I would walk along the road to meet the herd and to be picked up later to get back into the car.

Yaks are the cattle of Wakhan, kept for their meat, milk, hair and skin. You see a lot of them, herded by Wakhi and Kyrgyz people. I realise not everyone will agree with me they are cute animals. But I'm sure you can all see they are irresistibly photogenic.

And as for the unfortunate tourist that my father “caught” in the 70s… I was told he had been freed. But I never found out if he had got his photos back. Half a century later, there are still places everywhere (including in, what we think are free and civilised parts of world) where photography is frowned upon, in spite of the fact that you can probably look at those locations in great detail on Google Earth.

Such is the power of an image.

Two more photos in WS.

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Additional Photos by Kasia Nowak (kasianowak) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1456 W: 7 N: 2860] (15402)
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